Living where you work, at least within walking or biking distance, is gaining traction with millennials.
Combine this with a more transient lifestyle and the expansive professional possibilities of our digital age, and you have a burgeoning movement of growth in urban living among young adults. There, they hold impromptu meetings and get-togethers and walk to shops, restaurants and bars, bringing urban centers to life.
Meanwhile, as baby boomers age and grow weary of mowing lawns, shoveling snow and fixing homes, they also are gravitating to an urban environment with walkable amenities – particularly since the schooling of their children is no longer an issue.
The lure of living in the city for young adults and empty nesters has been fairly common the past 15 or so years in Manhattan and other cities across the nation. But it is only recently that it has taken hold in Philadelphia and now is beginning to occur in the Lehigh Valley’s cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.
“It’s definitely a real trend, a national trend,” said Antonio Fiol-Silva, an urban planner, architect and principal at Wallace Roberts & Todd in Philadelphia. “It’s particularly strong in Philadelphia more than any other city.”
When millennials and empty nesters have the choice, they are increasingly being drawn to cities, which is driving real estate growth in Philadelphia, Fiol-Silva said.
Cities such as Philadelphia that are walkable, have good parks and nearby establishments are attracting millennials and empty nesters because the desire to be close to high-quality schools is not so much a factor. Many millennial couples, in fact, are delaying the start of having children.
The flight to the city is something that Philadelphia shares with the Lehigh Valley cities, according to Fiol-Silva, whose firm designed STRATA Flats, a luxury apartment complex in downtown Allentown.
“Older people don’t want to take care of a house; younger people have a more transient life,” said Mark Mulligan, who is developing apartments in Easton. “I think you’ll find that trend is going to continue.”
This return to urban living started in Manhattan in the 1990s. At about the same time in the Lehigh Valley – Bethlehem, in particular – initiatives began that would lead to population growth in its cities, said Mulligan, CEO of VM Development LLC in Easton.